As the state capital and most populous city, Columbus Ohio has a long and interesting history. If you are to be visiting this state capital, you should know a bit more about the history to better understand it. This history can be traced back to the 18th century when the area was still under the nominal control of the French colonial empire.
From 1663 to 1763, the Ohio Country was under the control of the Viceroyalty of New France. This started to change when European traders started to arrive in the area. These traders were attracted by the fur trade in the area and the Pennsylvania traders took over the territory in the 1740s.
However, the traders were forcefully evicted by the French. In the early 1750s, the Ohio Company wanted a survey of the area and sent George Washington. The fighting which occurred in the area was part of the international Seven Years’ War and part of the French Indian War. During this conflict, the area was the location of many battles and massacres. When the fighting ended, the Ohio Country was ceded to the British Empire through the Treaty of Paris.
The Virginia Military District
Following the American Revolution, the Ohio Country was made to be part of the Virginia Military District. This district was under the control of the United States and colonialists from the East Coast started to move in. They were expecting to find an empty frontier, but they encountered European traders as well as the people of Miami, Delaware, Shawnee and Mingo nations.
The indigenous people of the area resisted the expansion by the newly founded United States. This led to many years of bitter conflict in the area culminating in the Battle of Fallen Timbers which resulted in the Treaty of Greenville. This treaty opened the way for the new settlements that the United States wanted in the area.
The permanent settlement in the Columbus area was founded by a young surveyor named Lucas Sullivant (think Sullivant Ave) and named Franklinton after Benjamin Franklin. The location was chosen based on the proximity to navigable rivers. However, the initial settlement suffered setbacks as there was a large flood in 1798 which wiped out the initial settlement, but a new village was rebuilt.
19th Century in Ohio and Columbus
In 1803, Ohio achieved statehood which led to infighting regarding where their state capital should be. This resulted in the capital being moved from Chillicothe to Zanesville and back again. The desire to settle on a single location brought about consideration of Franklinton, Worthington, and Delaware as potential capitals. However, a compromise was created and a plan to build a new city in the center of the state was formed.
The city was founded in 1812 and Columbus was named in honor of Christopher Columbus. The city was on the high banks across from Franklinton. At the time of founding, the area was only used as a hunting ground and was covered in dense forestland.
In 1816, the Borough of Columbus was officially established and 9 people were elected to fill the various government positions. The success of the new town was soon under threat because of the recession in the area and the conflicting claims to land. The early conditions in the city were terrible and there were often bouts of fevers and in 1833, there was a cholera outbreak.
In 1834, Columbus was chartered as a city and on the day of this, the legislature enacted a special act. Legislative authority was granted to the city council and judicial authority was provided to the mayor. In 1850, the railroad came to Columbus and by 1875 there would be 8 railroads serving the city. A new and more elaborate station would also be built at this time.
Civil War and Beyond
During the Civil War, Columbus was one of the major bases for the volunteer Union Army. There were 26,000 troops housed there and around 9,000 Confederate prisoners of war were held at Camp Chase. Camp Chase is now the Hilltop neighborhood in West Columbus. North of the city was Camp Thomas where the 18th US Infantry was trained and organized.
In the years following the Civil War, Columbus continued to grow. In 1908, The Columbus Experiment was organized which led to the growth of the state capital. The city would also earn the name “The Arch City” because of the many wooden arches which span High Street.